Saturday, February 6, 2010

Silent Saturday

The park was empty again today.  It was a little cool, windy, and cloudy this morning but it turned into a beautiful afternoon.  The park appeared to be in good shape during my drive around in the morning.  I did my paperwork and got caught up on e-mails next.  After that, I headed out for a walk.  I didn't expect to see much difference in the water.  It was still within a foot of where it was on Wednesday.  At 8am this morning, it had risen 0.01 feet since yesterday at 8am.  Throughout the day, it went up another 0.01 feet and then down 0.03 feet.  Its tiny, but the river did officially recede just slightly today.  Any rain in the coming week will surely send the level right back up again, but for now, its progress.

On my walk, I had my 10X macro lens attachment with me so I decided to revisit the Red-bud Trees that I looked at on Tuesday.  From a distance, the blooms just look like bright colored blobs.  Its as if the flowers are just leafy branches of pink leaves.  Up close, they are so intricately strange!

Near the Red-bud Trees, I noticed some new green shoots on a Groundsel  Tree.  I love all of these signs of spring.  It will help me get through the upcoming freezing nights in the forecast.

In the same area, I found a tiny little Violet well hidden beneath the grass.  The 10X macro really makes it look spectacular.  Have you ever looked so closely at a Violet?  First time for me.

On my way back to the office, I stopped to admire the work of my coworkers.  While I was off, they did some sprucing up of the parking lot.  The lines and parking stops got power washed and the ADA parking spot got some new blue paint.

I headed back to the office and spent some time working on ongoing projects.  It was a very quiet day.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Leftovers

My second day off was jam packed with errand running.  Throughout the day as I picked up my ring from the jeweler, put new tires on the car, and went to the eye doctor, the weather got worse and worse.  I had planned to take some photos after my errands were done.  It started raining in the afternoon but it stopped again before I got home.  When I arrived at home, I headed outside with my camera.  I struggled to get a good shot because my eyes were still dilated from my eye exam.  Then it started raining again.  We don't need any more rain.  The river level is still creeping upwards.  Its trying to crest, but the rain has been relentless.
Enjoy some leftovers from earlier in the week and hope for a sunny day tomorrow.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Disc Hawk

Today was a nice day off.  My fiance (*grin*) and I went to play some Disc Golf in Gainesville.  We were there early in the day and because it was a weekday, we almost had the course to ourselves.  More people began to show up in the afternoon.  It was a nice warm day but there was some wind that gave us a little extra challenge.  I especially enjoyed being able to take our time because there was no one waiting behind us.  I was able to look around and watch nature a little more.  Here are some things that we saw.

There were two Red-shouldered Hawks that I really enjoyed watching.  They were constantly on the move, but staying in one general area.  They would perch on the nearby pavilion or on a tree branch and then swoop down to the ground to catch a snack.  I don't know if they were after large grasshoppers or lizards or what, but they were finding a lot of them.  While we played, I kept an eye on these two hawks.  I finally realized that they had a nest nearby.  They were hunting in the area around the nest.  I am guessing that these hawks will have some eggs in that nest in the coming months.  I was a little surprised that I had never seen the hawks around before.  I guess they know how to stay hidden when the park is crowded, that's good.

A few beautiful trees had burst into bloom since we were here last.  They looked so pretty next to the blue, blue sky.

We both played pretty well today.  Our practice is paying off.  My drive is getting much longer.  I did get into a bit of trouble though.  I didn't hit as many trees as I usually do, but I hit the water a few times.  We also had a few Saw Palmettos try to eat our discs.  I really like these much better than the prickly briers that we have dealt with on other courses.

Speaking of briers.  I noticed this Greenbrier which is another relative of the prickly Smilax.  I thought that its berries were beautiful.

Near the end of the course, my fiance almost stepped on this Carpenter Bee.  It was grooming itself and seemingly smoothing its fur.  I was able to take two photos before it flew away.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today was a beautiful day.  Even though I didn't get my wish of a clear spring for my birthday, it was still a great day.  The water only came up a tiny bit over night and it was sunny with no clouds to be seen.  After my morning drive around the park and my paperwork, my coworkers and I set out with the trailer load of wood chips and filled some holes on the service road.  They did all of the shoveling and I drove from spot to spot and raked a bit.  We filled the biggest holes and now we will wait to see how well they work out.  If it helps to alleviate the puddling on the road when it rains, we will pick up some more to fill the rest of the low spots.  Lime rock would be a better solution, but the wood chips are free!

Once the trailer was unloaded, we headed over to Ichetucknee to pick up a piece of equipment for Adams Tract.  My coworkers there had a very tasty, rich, chocolaty cake waiting for me.  We all enjoyed the chocolate cake and then went back to work with a sugar rush.  We loaded up an old mower and headed to Adams Tract next.

The old mower that we delivered to Adams Tract is the same make and model as the old mower that they use there to pull a cart when they are moving garbage or firewood or whatever.  Their current old mower's ignition switch went bad and the part would cost $80 to replace.  Instead of spending the money, one mower will be used for parts so that we can keep the other going.  We pinch pennies wherever we can.  We unloaded the tractor and chatted with the volunteers.  I collected their time sheet and visitor count for the month as well.
When we made it back to Troy, its was nearly quitting time.  A package arrived while we were gone.  It was full of new Disc Golf discs that my boyfriend ordered for us.  It was so nice of them to come on my birthday!  I sat and talked with my coworkers for a little while before heading home.  I saw a Red-shouldered Hawk land on a branch while we were there.  I was surprised that the hawk had stayed there for such a long time.  I decided to try to sneak up on it for a photo.  I walked far off to the side and then towards it once I had a building in between us.  I leaned around the corner of the building, snapped a photo, and was surprised that the bird didn't seem at all nervous.  I crept a little closer behind a tree and took another one.  It still didn't care.  I ended up walking right under its perch and it just calmly watched me taking its picture.  Later, two of my coworkers went by it at different times to accomplish various tasks.  It didn't budge.  They started joking with me that it wasn't even a real bird.  It was, I promise.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

Well, I didn't see any groundhogs, but I did find some signs of spring!  Today was a much more fun and productive day than yesterday, just what I was hoping for.  It started out rainy, but the forecast told me that the weather would improve and it did.
I started my day with a drive through the park.  I opened the gate and put up the flags in the rain.  Its not fun to put the flags up in the rain.  You have to look up to see what you are doing and the raindrops get in your eyes.  The flags cling to the wet pole and its like trying to put on wet jeans.  I knew that I would forget about it if I waited until it stopped raining though, I just got it done.  When I got to the office, I checked the rain gauge and then settled in to finish the paperwork that I didn't complete yesterday.  The paperwork didn't take too long.  I did the daily paperwork and completed my time sheet first.  Then, I finalized all our our rain, water level, water condition, and wildlife sighting reports and sent them along to park biologists along with an update and photos of our erosion areas.
When the paperwork was done, I rewarded myself with a walk around the park.  The water is still rising, but its not visibly much different from yesterday.  We have been in the range of 23 feet for three days now.  I think we will probably break into 24 feet overnight, but at least it isn't a foot a day or more.  Inches are much easier to cope with.

As I walked, I picked up a few branches and threw them into the woods.  A bright spot of color caught my eye.  I found a log with lots of new fungus growth on it.  I took several photos of it, here is my favorite.

When I walked around to the spring side of the park, I was wondering about our Red-bud Trees.  I noticed some Red-buds in bloom in a few places south of the park and I thought I might be able to find some signs of life on our trees.  At first glance, they were still just bare twigs.  I took some photos of the water and then noticed a much larger Red-bud than the ones that I was looking at.  It had some lovely pink fluffs of color!  The flowers bloom in the spring and are usually pollinated by bees.  The flowers make fruit which resemble pea pods and are mature in the fall.  Somewhere in between, fat, little, heart-shaped leaves will emerge.


I took a closer look at the Red-buds that I checked first.  On my second look, I found that the buds were JUST starting to open.  I was more impressed by the water droplets clinging to the branches and the tiniest leaf that must have been left over from last year.

After my walk, I headed back inside to work on another project that I have been struggling with for a while.  I replaced the thermostat in the office.  You may remember that I had purchased a new thermostat, did a lot of research to figure out which wires went where, found out that I had the wrong type of thermostat, returned the thermostat and bought a new one.  I was expecting today's installation to go very smoothly, but I did still have to do a bit more reading to double check a few of the connections.  The majority of my time spent on this project was going through the detailed programming process.  I was really getting impatient with it, but I think I have it set up so that we won't ever have to touch it again aside from switching to cool in the summer time (and I think I can even program it to do that itself too).  Here's a little visual of the wire spaghetti that I worked with today.

With my paperwork and project out of the way, I had some lunch and then got to the fun part of the day.  I went kayaking!  It wasn't just for fun, I had somethings that I wanted to accomplish... but it was fun.  The last flood had dropped some giant logs in bad spots.  One had held a tree down in an unfortunate way.  I have been eying them since the last flood and this was my opportunity to try to get them out of the spring area all together.  I also wanted to pick up some garbage and secure some of our property.  I went out to the dock first to get a good photo of it in all of its silliness.  When the floating dock gets high enough for the ramp to become useless, we jokingly call it the Mullet Launcher.

As I drifted into position between a tree and one of the logs I wanted to move, I looked up and spotted this giant spider.  I believe it is a fishing spider and it was about the size of palm of my hand.  While I got my camera out, it was deciding what to do about my sudden presence.  It started to dart off, and then froze.  It really blends in well with the tree.  Maybe it thought I couldn't see it.  I snapped a few photos and then got to work.

I had to wedge my kayak into tree branches or next to trees in order to have leverage to push the giant logs out into the open water.  Once they started to drift, I had to get a good paddling start and push them one direction or another to steer them around the buoys and out to the river.  The biggest of the two gave me a very hard time, but I won in the end!

While I was out on the water, I decided to harvest our Bobber Trees.  Bobber Trees only grow near good fishing spots.  They have this funny Styrofoam or sometimes plastic fruit that has fishing line and hooks attached to it.  I collected at least five bobbers and left them for my coworkers who are avid fishermen.

I picked up a lot of other trash, but there will be so much more when the water goes down.  I just couldn't get to all of it.  I pulled out a whole plastic lawn chair from the top of a tree in the spring.  I picked up a few cans and plastic bottles.  I got bit by one fire ant as well.  What are fire ants doing on the water, you ask?  Even floods can't kill fire ants.  They congregate together and can float on the water until they reach something to hold on to.  The whole colony will hang onto a plant stalk for as long as they need to. The winged individuals are capable of flying and reproducing.  If need be, they can just zoom off to find dry land and start a new colony.

When I was done with my boating adventure, I headed back, unloaded all of my garbage and put away the kayak.  I was a little soggy from all of the water that made it in from my activity.  I was ready to call it a day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Mondays

Usually, Monday is in the middle of the workweek for me.  Usually, its mind-numbing, clumsy, forgetful, frustrating Monday powers do not effect me.  Today was not usual.  I was back from a four day weekend and Monday hit me like a bus.  It didn't help that I had three days of paperwork to do because of my days off, but I also had end of the week and end of the month paperwork to do.  It still isn't all done.  I got a call first thing this morning that the river flooding had reached action stage and we had to evacuate our volunteers from Adams Tract in case the road flooded and trapped them at the river camp.  Fortunately, that turned out to be a Monday mishap as well and we, in fact have five feet of leeway before that point.
The river is continuing to rise.  It is rising much more slowly, but all of the tributaries to the Suwannee north of the park are at or over their flood limits.  If there is no more rain north of us, the river will crest and begin to drop.  There is, however, rain in the forecast.  The water has turned another corner on the spring walkway.  Our beautiful, wood chip covered trail is inches away from being slowly devoured by the flood water.  The high bank on the far side of the spring has disappeared under the water.
When I finished the majority of my mountain of paperwork, I also went to Ichetucknee to drop off Mt. Paperwork and the trailer that I used to haul the buoys last week.  I got back, had lunch, and went back to the office.  I worked on my time sheet, returned two calls from visitors, verified that all of my coworkers time sheets had been received, sold two t-shirts to visitors (actual visitors!!), watched one whole week of my time sheet vanish before my eyes, took a camping reservation for a group of scouts, re-did that week of my time sheet, talked to my coworkers, and gave up on my time sheet.  I am looking forward to Tuesday!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

4th Day Off

My weekend went by far too quickly.  It was nice to spend some time away from the flood for a little while.  I wrapped up my mini vacation with a fun day.  We went to the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville.  It was a full day of walking around to different vendors, watching musical, educational or comedic performances, and eating good food.  One show that I enjoy every year is the Falconry exhibition.  Accipiter Enterprises is at the Faire ever year to demonstrate the art of Falconry and to interest and educate the public.  Many of the birds that they showed and talked about today can be found in Florida State Parks.
The American Kestrel is one of my favorite birds of prey.  The are absolutely beautiful, and much smaller than most of the hunting birds.  I often see a Kestrel or two perched on power lines that run over a large farm field on my way to Adams Tract.  The gentleman is holding the brightly colored male and the woman is holding the female Kestrel.

The Barn Owl is a stunning and fascinating bird as well.  A Barn Owl is a very fun bird to teach people about because of all of its interesting qualities.  For instance, its uniquly shaped face works as a sound receptor and its ears are uneven (one is higher than the other) so that they can better pinpoint the exact direction that a sound is coming from.  They hunt at night, so sound is much more useful than vision.  Their feathers have soft edges that allow the owls to fly through the air silently to catch their prey.  They also eat a great deal of mice.  Its works out well for farmers that Barn Owls do frequent barns.  One Barn Owl can eat two or three mice each night.  What barn cat can do that?  Barn Owls also give us a great opportunity to see what they have been eating.  Near their roosting sight, Barn Owls leave pellets.  The pellets are the bits of their food that are indigestible.  If an owl eats a mouse, the bones, teeth, and hair can't be digested by the owl, so they are compacted into a pellet and regurgitated.  These pellets can be dissected and the bones can be pieced together to find what an owl has eaten.  It may sound gross, but all of the gross "guts" and "yuck" have been digested, they are dry, compact blobs of fur and bones.  If it sounds like fun, I found a web page that will simulate the experience for you.  Sterilized owl pellets can also be ordered online for classes or educational groups.  I found a pellet once when I was working at a nature center in Delaware.  I brought the pellet home and my oldest nephew and I had fun trying to figure out what mouse bones went where.  Its like being a miniature archaeologist unearthing the tiniest dinosaur ever!  This owl was freed from his carrier and immediately flew to his trainer for a treat.  It was very impressive.

The Barred Owl is the most common owl at Troy Springs.  I see them often and have blogged about them before.  Their faces seem very expressive to me.  If I remember correctly, this particular bird was found injured on the side of the road.  It was injured too badly to have a normal life in the wild so now it is an educational aide.